Use of computational fluid dynamics in the design of bubble column reactors

  • Gregory M. Cartland-Glover

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Investigations into the modelling techniques that depict the transport of discrete phases (gas bubbles or solid particles) and model biochemical reactions in a bubble column reactor are discussed here. The mixture model was used to calculate gas-liquid, solid-liquid and gasliquid-solid interactions.
Multiphase flow is a difficult phenomenon to capture, particularly in bubble columns where the major driving force is caused by the injection of gas bubbles. The gas bubbles cause a large density difference to occur that results in transient multi-dimensional fluid motion. Standard design procedures do not account for the transient motion, due to the simplifying assumptions of steady plug flow. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can assist in expanding the understanding of complex flows in bubble columns by characterising the flow phenomena for many geometrical configurations. Therefore, CFD has a role in the education of chemical and biochemical engineers, providing the examples of flow phenomena that many engineers may not experience, even through experimentation.
The performance of the mixture model was investigated for three domains (plane, rectangular and cylindrical) and three flow models (laminar, k-e turbulence and the Reynolds stresses). mThis investigation raised many questions about how gas-liquid interactions are captured numerically. To answer some of these questions the analogy between thermal convection in a cavity and gas-liquid flow in bubble columns was invoked. This involved modelling the buoyant motion of air in a narrow cavity for a number of turbulence schemes. The difference in density was caused by a temperature gradient that acted across the width of the cavity. Multiple vortices were obtained when the Reynolds stresses were utilised with the addition of a basic flow profile after each time step.
To implement the three-phase models an alternative mixture model was developed and compared against a commercially available mixture model for three turbulence schemes. The scheme where just the Reynolds stresses model was employed, predicted the transient motion of the fluids quite well for both mixture models. Solid-liquid and then alternative formulations of gas-liquid-solid model were compared against one another. The alternative form of the mixture model was found to perform particularly well for both gas and solid phase transport when calculating two and three-phase flow. The improvement in the solutions obtained was a result of the inclusion of the Reynolds stresses model and differences in the mixture models employed. The differences between the alternative mixture models were found in the volume fraction equation (flux and deviatoric stress tensor terms) and the viscosity formulation for the mixture phase.
Date of AwardJul 2002
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSotos Generalis (Supervisor)


  • computational fluid dynamics
  • design of bubble column reactors

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